General shares game plan for success

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. Jennifer Lindsey
  • Air Force Recruiting Service Public Affairs
Sharing the words of automotive tycoon Henry Ford, "Whether you think you can or you think you can't, you're right," Brig. Gen. Alfred J. Stewart challenged the Air Force Junior ROTC students of his high school alma mater Nov. 7 to push themselves to achieve more than they currently think possible.

The Air Force Recruiting Service commander spoke with the students on the eve of the high school football game between Baltimore's Polytechnic Institute and City College.

As a wide receiver his junior and senior years of 1976 and 1977, the general relished in victory and recalled the games as defining moments in his life. The Air Force has sponsored the contest for the past three of five years in partnership with the iHigh Great American Rivalry Series, which features 20 of the nation's top high school clashes.

This year, the Air Force raised the sponsorship level by awarding a $500 college scholarship to a player on each team, trophies and ball caps to the winning team members, and featured special attractions and giveaways for game fans, said Dave Shepard of iHigh.

Members of the 317th Recruiting Squadron, who conduct Air Force recruiting in Baltimore, received more than 70 contact direct requests from among the 7,000 Poly-City game fans who are interested in learning more about Air Force job opportunities.

Speaking with BPI Junior ROTC students, the general served as a real-life success story about the importance of acquiring education.

Raised on Baltimore's 32nd Street, young General Stewart took his single mother's advice to heart, staying clear of the drug and alcohol abuse and youth violence that plagued his neighborhood, and focused on earning the best education possible. He applied and was accepted to BPI. It was the "geek" school back then, recalled the general, so-called because of the institute's strict dress codes, grade requirements and discipline.

He worked hard, earning B-average grades, and played junior and senior varsity football and baseball during his three years at the school. Football coach August Waibel served as a father figure in his life, ensuring the energetic student maintained a positive path.

It wasn't until his junior year that the future general locked on target. Knowing he was interested in the U.S. Air Force Academy, a school counselor arranged for him to attend an in-school presentation about the military university.

"I was stunned," the general said. "I knew at that moment that was what I wanted, and I focused all my energy into doing whatever it would take to get in."

Today, with an Academy degree and two master's degrees in different disciplines of national security, all earned during his active-duty service, the general shared what his education has done for him.

"Whatever you choose to do for the rest of your life, you're not going anywhere without education," he said to the crowd of attentive students. "Get focused on what you want to do and follow that path."

Before the game, General Stewart gave a pep talk to BPI Engineer's rivals, the City College Knights, encouraging them to give their best on the field.

"This game is a test of character," he said. "Play hard. Leave it all out there on the field by giving it all you have. This is part of your development. For me, football and baseball were essential elements in the development of my character. They helped me to get to where I am today. Competition -- the ability to win and the ability to lose with dignity -- is important and makes all the difference in the rest of your life. Listen to your coaches. These men have one concern, and that is to help you become a better person for the rest of your life."

Throughout the first half, the Knights kept control of the field, but in the final quarter of the game, the Engineers took charge and secured the win 16-13.

"You came and turned things around by speaking to our students yesterday," said Dr. Barney Wilson, the BPI director to General Stewart after the victory announcement. "Welcome home!"

Comment on this story (comments may be published on Air Force Link)

View the comments/letters page